Italy as a simulacrum

Just as a person can become inauthentic, i.e., a replica of itself created by others, so can a corporation or a country. In a previous post, I explored the world itself as a simulacrum. Let’s here, explore an individual country, Italy, that may have become a copy of itself, the original gone. (or going)

In order for a country to remain authentic to its inhabitants and others, it must have a vibrant economy and a vision of itself that is active in the lives of its denizens. I would suggest that Italy is becoming a brochure of itself. Its masterpieces of art and architecture born out of a vibrant and creative time in its history, have now become static simulacra as likely to have been created by Disney as by the genius of the Renaissance. Italy is now essentially a museum of itself. Millions visit and tour. The Coliseum, the Forum, the city of Florence, the canals of Venice are no longer living and vital, but rather corridors in a vast museum. Even the inhabitants seem part of a tableaux rather than a living functioning population. The State itself and its economy are fractured and diffuse, unable to hold back this drift into simulacrum.

What is the consequence of this mode of existence upon the population? At least two prominent aspects come to mind. One is a nostalgic love. The other is a sense of alienation from the real. Tourism is a third of Italy’s economy. The majority (51%+) of its inhabitants function within the tourist economy and its derivatives, in some fashion. They, too, live in the brochure. Living in a brochure is to lose contact with reality. Both the country and its inhabitants drift into inauthenticity. It is like living in the movie, The Truman Show. People drift through the day like so many museum guards. Their lives lack an elan vital. They are caretakers rather than participants. It is hard to feel alive.

There are entrepreneurs and visionaries in Italy’s economy. Their designers are world renowned. There are pools of vitality within the economy. But they remain pools not rivers. Their scope and capitalization is not sufficient to stem the tide.

Italy is not the only country to suffer this ebb and transformation, but it is the perfect storm of such a transformation. Its art is superlative. Its attraction is addictive. But its other pillars of “raison d’etre” are weakening.

I will revisit this topic of countries and corporations becoming simulacra, but for now I would like to leave it hanging out there for comment. We’ll see what comes. (I myself have visited Italy many times. I mean no insult to the wonderful people there and the mindboggling beauty of its structures, art, cities and countryside.) I merely postulate here, the possibility and the observation that an entire country can slip into simulacrum without noticing. There are consequences from that slippage.



2 thoughts on “Italy as a simulacrum

  1. Yes, agree that Italy is like being in a time warp but of course that is what so many of us western vacationers seek. As you mention…its like a high brow Disneyland for adults. In typical human nature, most go along with the trend and ride the wave in complacency. They are lucky they have so many laurels to rest on and can survive without having to create too many new ones. I suppose it’s questionable wether or not they have any interest in creating a new path hence the pools rather than tide; but it feels like they are ok with living in their museum. Also explains the extended “lunch” hours. Very interesting observation and much truth to it.


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